Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military

Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military

Zoltan Barany
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 264
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military
    Book Description:

    Why have Russian generals acquired an important political position since the Soviet Union's collapse while at the same time the effectiveness of their forces has deteriorated? Why have there been no radical defense reforms in Russia since the end of the cold war, even though they were high on the agenda of the country's new president in 2000?Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Militaryexplains these puzzles as it paints a comprehensive portrait of Russian military politics.

    Zoltan Barany identifies three formative moments that gave rise to the Russian dilemma. The first was Gorbachev's decision to invite military participation in Soviet politics. The second was when Yeltsin acquiesced to a new political system that gave generals a legitimate political presence. The third was when Putin not only failed to press for needed military reforms but elevated numerous high-ranking officers to prominent positions in the federal administration. Included here are Barany's insightful analysis of crisis management following the sinking of the Kursk submarine, a systematic comparison of the Soviet/Russian armed forces in 1985 and the present, and compelling accounts of the army's political role, the elusive defense reform, and the relationship between politicians and generals.

    Barany offers a rare look at the world of contemporary military politics in an increasingly authoritarian state. Destined to become a classic in post-Soviet studies, this book reminds us of the importance of the separation of powers as a means to safeguard democracy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2804-3
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Zoltan Barany
    (pp. 1-18)

    The fifteen years since the founding of the new, post-Communist Russian Army have been marked by the unprecedented deterioration of the once-proud Soviet military. Unprecedented, that is, because there is no similar case in world history of a dominant armed force so rapidly and so thoroughly deteriorating without being defeated in battle. As a perceptive 2001 article noted, “Russia’s fall from military superpower Number Two to a country whose army can be neutralized by bands of irregulars fighting with little more than the weapons on their backs” was one of the most spectacular elements of the Soviet Union’s collapse.¹ The...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Tragedy and Symbolism of the Kursk
    (pp. 19-43)

    The sinking of the nuclear submarineKurskon 12 August 2000—the first major accident of the Russian Navy since the end of the Soviet Union—is enlightening for students of contemporary Russia for several reasons. First, predicaments of this sort tend to reveal the instinctive reactions of political leaders to potential emergencies and afford a rare glimpse into how they might manage subsequent crises. In other words, the handling of this incident can help us understand Russia’s political elite in general and its head of state in particular. The tragedy of theKurskwas the first unrehearsed, unscripted event...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Assessing Decay: THE SOVIET/RUSSIAN MILITARY, 1985–2006
    (pp. 44-77)

    Although the objective of the foregoing chapter was to examine how a major defense-related crisis was handled in the early days of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, I also sought to offer some insight into the policies of the Russian state and especially, the predicaments of its army. Why and how have conditions in the not-long-ago proud and mighty force deteriorated to this extent? How are Russia’s officers and soldiers trained and equipped to respond to the challenges they face? How have their everyday lives changed? What does their performance in the battlefields of Chechnya tell us about the Russian Army? The...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Explaining the Military’s Political Presence
    (pp. 78-110)

    The widely recognized political role of Russian military elites is a puzzle that ought to intrigue political scientists, especially democratization theorists, civil-military relations scholars, and those studying Communist and post-Communist systems. Since the collapse of the USSR, active-duty officers have run for elected office with their commanders’ support; politicians have met the unabashed insubordination of prominent generals with appeasement rather than retribution; and military leaders have successfully opposed and foiled state policy, to say nothing of intentionally deceiving their civilian superiors. In the meantime, the proportion of personnel with security and military backgrounds—although many more of the former than...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Elusive Defense Reform
    (pp. 111-142)

    Taking the quotes above at face value, one might assume that during the five years that elapsed between them the Russian military establishment had been comprehensively rebuilt. In contrast to President Putin’s proclamation—often repeated in campaign speeches prior to the 2003 parliamentary elections—his country’s armed forces have yet to weather the sort of transformative reform necessary to bring them in line with post–Cold War economic, geopolitical, and security realities. Three months after the Putin’s announcement, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov publicly conceded that though the military’s “reform” had been completed, a period of “regimentation” was just beginning. He...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Civil-Military Relations and Superpresidentialism
    (pp. 143-168)

    The September–October 1993 crisis between the legislature and President Boris Yeltsin profoundly affected Russia’s political development. From this point on Moscow’s political trajectory has been characterized by increasing centralization, the growth of executive power with the corresponding decline in the legislature’s influence, and the steady erosion of rights and freedoms. Although experts at times refer to contemporary Russia as a “managed,” “façade,” or “quasi” democracy, these labels only serve to avoid calling it what it has become: an authoritarian state.

    In chapters 3 and 4 the focus was on the armed forces’ side of the civil-military relations equation as...

    (pp. 169-192)

    The main focus of this book has been the absence of radical defense reform in Russia and the evolution of a peculiar sort of civil-military relations framework that explains it. In the larger sense, this study is about the reversal of Russia’s post-Soviet democratization and, more specifically, about an important aspect of that process, military politics.

    It is all too often forgotten, given the many examples of successful democratization experiences in Southern Europe, Latin America, and East-Central Europe in the relatively recent past, that democratization is not necessarily a one-way street that steadily and inevitably leads to fair governance. Neither...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 193-238)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 239-247)